Martyn Corrin | 6:34pm gmt 28 Jun 2009
Excitement mixed with apprehension. That seems to be the most accurate way to describe how I feel as the Ashes creeps up on us. I should qualify that statement by being honest about my agenda. I'm an England fan, and the fence is not something I sit on. To be honest, I don't even know what it looks like.
See what makes me apprehensive is that I feel it is a summer too soon. I've spent two and a half years waiting for the Ashes but for all the excitement I don't want to see England lose. What troubles me is that the lead-up to this has felt almost like the typical English build to an ODI World Cup - despite the intention of planning years in advance for this moment, the final decisions have been stumbled upon in the last few matches. Prior, Swann, Bopara.
Whenever I think of the 2005 Ashes, it always brings a moment from 2004 to mind for me. I was doing bar work and the boss was a huge cricket fan. You might remember 2004, England won Test matches like they were going out fashion and I did a shift one Sunday evening after a thoroughly convincing England win. I can't remember which match, and it doesn't matter. I said to the boss, "see the cricket?"
He laughed, and said, "just wait till next summer." Who could blame him, pessimism is natural when you're an English cricket fan. Those words always stuck with me, though, even I wasn't smug enough to remind him of them when England won the Ashes. They remained in my mind as even though there was plenty of doubt amongst many, many Englishmen, our team was setting its stall out. Throughout 2004 and early 2005 England sent a message to Australia, a message that this time it would be different.
There has been no such message in the last twelve to eighteen months, not from England anyway. Most of the hope from these shores has been coming from the fact that the mighty Australia might not be so mighty anymore. But these thoughts are easily tempered by the fact that in Australia's most recent series, they went to South Africa and won. It was meant to be the passing of the torch, but the Aussies won't give up the top spot easily.
All things considered, though, the excitement is the overriding emotion. It's an Ashes summer, Anderson is in the form of his life. Freddie is fit, and hit a 90-odd last week. Sure it was in a Twenty20, but runs are better than no runs. Pietersen averages over fifty against Australia. Stuart Broad gets better with every Test match. And most importantly of all, it's been raining like hell lately. Hopefully the clouds are getting it out of their system.